I just got back from a trip to Mobile, AL last week. Living in Destin, FL (a major vacation destination) this seems to confuse a lot of people. “Why go to Mobile when you could be in Destin?” they all ask. While Destin is undeniably beautiful and awesome for a ton of reasons, I don’t think you can really compare Destin to Mobile. They’re completely different in so many ways.
Mobile is one of the oldest cities in the south and has a rich history, beautiful architecture, and a whole lot of southern charm. Destin is a beach town. However, the real reason I went to Mobile was that Mobile holds the Distinguished Young Women National Program, so I went to go see that and cheer on Wisconsin. Anyways, I’ve been to Mobile about six other times, and I have to say, it’s one of the coolest places in the south. Check out a few of my favorite things to do in Mobile, AL.
Take a Historic Tour of the City
Mobile was first settled by the French in 1702, which means it was one of the earliest settlements in North America. If you’re not from Alabama, you might be surprised to find out that Mardi Gras in North America actually originated in Mobile in 1703, over 150 years before New Orleans had its first Mardi Gras celebration. It was also originally the capital of Louisiana before the Louisiana Purchase.
When I went to Mobile last week, my mom and I decided to take a driving tour of the historic downtown area. Our tour guide took us through all of Mobile’s historic districts and gave us a history lesson on each of the neighborhoods. We got to learn so much about the architecture and background of the city. It was really fascinating and I highly recommend it to anyone visiting Mobile. It was a great starting point for our trip because she gave us a great overview of the city’s history, which helped us choose the activities we did throughout the rest of the week.
Check out the Local Coffee Shops
My mom and I stumbled across the cutest coffee shop while walking around Mobile on Sunday morning. It’s called Nova Espresso and it’s probably one of the most aesthetically pleasing coffee shops I’ve ever laid eyes on. The coffee was pretty good too! There are tons of adorable coffee shops and cafes all over the downtown area though, so go out on a walk and find a coffee shop that fits your taste (and Instagram feed).
Tour the Richards DAR House
If you’re a history geek visiting Mobile, you need to check out the Richards DAR House. Built in 1860, the home features amazing architecture and design. I’m pretty obsessed with touring old historic homes, and this is probably the most interactive one I’ve been to. Unlike most historic home tours, the guides will take you through practically every room in the mansion. Nothing is behind ropes or glass and the guides actually encourage you to play the grand piano! It’s run by Mobile’s Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) group and it’s been meticulously preserved and cared for. It’s super fascinating and the tour guides are incredibly knowledgeable on Mobile history.
Go to Bellingrath Gardens
While it’s been a while since I toured Bellingrath Gardens and Home, I still definitely recommend checking it out. My mom and I didn’t tour the home on our trip this year, but we did tour it two other times we visited and I do think it’s worth visiting. The Bellingrath Home is an absolutely gorgeous southern mansion built in 1934 for Walter and Bessie Bellingrath. In addition to touring the home, you can also tour the spectacular gardens that surround the home.
Get Mexican Food at El Papi
My mom and I both love Mexican food, but neither my dad nor my boyfriend can eat Mexican as frequently as we can, so whenever we’re together, we get Mexican at least once a day. That’s actually not an exaggeration. My mom and I had Mexican food Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday last week.
Anyways, out of all the Mexican restaurants we tried throughout our vacation, we both agreed that El Papi was the best. They have a really authentic menu with tons of options. If you love Mexican food, you definitely need to stop by El Papi in downtown Mobile the next time you visit. I got the chicken fajitas and they were incredible!
Go to the Farmers Market on Cathedral Square
I love checking out local farmers’ markets and the farmers market in downtown Mobile has so many cute stands. They have tons of delicious baked goods, organic snacks, fresh produce, handmade soaps, and so much more. It’s the perfect way to spend your Saturday morning in Mobile. There’s even live music in the center! You can go check it out for yourself every Saturday morning from 7:30 am to noon.
Check out the Cathedral Basilica of Immaculate Conception
The Catholic Church is a huge part of Mobile’s culture. The first Catholic Parish on the Gulf Coast was actually established here in 1703, just a year after the city’s founding. According to our tour guide on our driving tour of the city, “this cathedral is the jewel in Mobile’s crown.” The construction of The Cathedral Basilica of Immaculate Conception began in 1833, however, the church didn’t open until 1850 and construction wasn’t complete until 1884.
This stunning cathedral features dazzling architecture, beautiful stain glass windows depicting the stages of the cross, and even a crypt below where you’ll find the graves of the bishops who served here. You can walk inside and take a look at the church any day of the week, or you can even attend mass here (click here for a schedule). I highly recommend at least taking a look inside!
Go to the Mobile Carnival Museum
Since Mobile is the birthplace of American Mardi Gras, you cannot visit Mobile without celebrating a little. Since my mom and I visited Mobile in June, Mardi Gras season is over, but that doesn’t change the fact that the entire city is still full of it. From the plastic beads hanging from the live oak trees to the Mardi Gras themed gift shops on every corner, the Mardi Gras presence is undeniable. That’s why you absolutely have to check out the Mobile Carnival Museum when you visit.
My mom and I didn’t go inside this time, but we did go a few years ago and it was pretty cool. You can see some of the gorgeous gowns, crowns, and robes worn by past Mardi Gras Kings and Queens. The museum also goes through the history of Mardi Gras in the city and it really is quite interesting. If you can’t come to Mobile for the real Mardi Gras celebrations in February, you should at least check out the museum to get a little taste of the festivities.
All in all, Mobile, AL really is a pretty cool city. With its fascinating history, stunning architecture, and undeniable charm, it’s definitely worth visiting. Comment down below if you decide to check out any of these things on your next trip to Mobile!